Students Preparing a Changing Earth

Self-Folding, Printable Inchworm Robot

Robot InchwormThe Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering are back with another mind-blowing robot. This one doesn’t have a specific name, but Samuel Felton, grad student working on the project, simply describes it as a, “Self-Folding, printed inchworm.” It’s literally a printable robot that uses shape memory polymers to fold itself using small electrical currents, and then can inch along just like it’s worm counterpart. 

One of the most promising aspects of this robot is its ease to manufacture. Since it’s printed, producing swarms of these robots wouldn’t be as costly as most technology. It also has an ingenious mechanism behind its automated folding. The shape memory polymers expand and shrink with the heat of electricity, and this size change causes folding around printed hinges. This simple solution means even more complex shapes are possible.

Unfortunately, it’s still in the early stages of development. Right now it can fold itself but not install its own motor or battery. The task of installation, fortunately, is simple and easy to replicate with other robots.

Along with those swarms of quadrocopters, expect ground swarms of robotic slithering worms.

2 responses

  1. Reblogged this on #LouisianaUniverse.

    May 10, 2013 at 12:24 am

  2. Reblogged this on Polytech's WordPress Place and commented:
    Interesting concept of self-folding device. I would not go as far as to call it a “robot” per se because its movement function which is enabled by the motor and the battery, all added after the fact manually, are secondary (IMHO) to the ability to fold, which is what’s cool about it. From the soundtrack to the video, the shape memory polymers are bent into final position by temperature created with appox 2A current though what looks like a graphite infused part of the polymer sheet.
    I don’t know how useful the technique would be specifically in robotics but this may actually be useful for electronic devices that require an enclosure. The shape memory polymer could be made to become both the PCB for the electronics as well as the enclosure, in which the components would be mounted on the inside. A pick-n-place robot can populate the SMD parts on the inner side of the device, then, while the device is in the reflow oven, the sides will fold around to form an enclosure. Interesting… Gotta read up more on the shape memory polymers, much depends on the temperatures required for the shape recall.

    May 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

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